Woods embraces new swing
Tiger Woods figured he could only deal with one problem at a time. In this case, golf had to wait its turn.
“Let’s just say I’ve been through a lot lately, and I didn’t want to have any more information,” Woods said Wednesday at the BMW Championship. “I was trying to get adjusted to my new life and what that entailed, and it was enough as it was. I didn’t have time to work on my game. I was dealing with a lot of other things.”
In what turned out to be a lost summer in the majors, Woods tried to patch together what he could with his golf swing. His only teacher was a video camera and his memory, and that wasn’t nearly enough to get him through four rounds at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, or the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
The do-it-yourself approach gave way to working with Sean Foley, the Canadian-born swing coach who again was with Woods for an hour during his pro-am at Cog Hill for the BMW Championship.
Foley first took video of Woods a month ago at the PGA Championship. Woods already is seeing results. He opened with a season-best 65 at The Barclays and wound up with a tie for 12th.Player Name: First | Laste Bank Championship, Woods had three rounds in the 60s for the first time this year and tied for 11th.
A top 10 for Woods used to be called a slump. Now it’s progress.
He needed both results just to keep playing in the FedEx Cup playoffs, which have reached the third round and perhaps the most critical. Woods went from 112th to 65th after the first round, and to 51st after the second round.
That at least got him to Cog Hill with the rest of the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Woods is the defending champion and a five-time winner at this public course in the Chicago suburbs, winning last year with a 62-68 weekend to finish eight shots ahead of the field.
“It’s good to be back,” Woods said, pausing to smile before adding, “It’s even better to be in the event.”
He thrives on this kind of course, although he already has shown this year that past performance is meaningless without a swing he can trust and a good putting stroke. A two-time winner at St. Andrews, he tied for 23rd. A seven-time winner at Firestone, he had the worst tournament of his career and finished at 18-over par.
Now that Woods appears to be on an upward trend, this week could be interesting.
“I’m headed in the right direction,” Woods said when asked what a victory would mean at this stage in his season. “It obviously would be a good step in the right direction, but we’ve got four days, and I’ve just got to keep plodding along.”
Matt Kuchar remains atop the FedEx Cup standings with a win and a tie for 11th in the two playoff events. Kuchar also has fond memories and one big victory at Cog Hill, even if he didn’t earn a dime. He won the 1997 U.S. Amateur here.
“The people in the locker room still remember me, still get big smiles on their face,” Kuchar said. “It’s kind of a fun homecoming for me to see those old faces.”
It’s also a homecoming of sorts for Steve Stricker, who grew up a few hours away from Cog Hill. But this is no time to wave to the gallery. Stricker not only is No. 3 in the FedEx Cup standings, he is tied with Kuchar for the lowest adjusted scoring average on the PGA Tour, and the next two weeks could decide the Vardon Trophy.
The top 30 after the BMW Championship advance to the Tour Championship and a shot at the $10 million bonus, which Woods has won twice in two attempts.
His goal is to get to Atlanta. Woods has missed the Tour Championship before, but not because he wasn’t eligible. Even so, his primary goal has never changed. He was asked if he would play differently down the stretch if he were a long shot to win the tournament, when playing safe meant finishing high enough to get to the Tour Championship.
“Win,” Woods said. “Did I answer that too fast?”
Not so fast were answers pertaining to Foley. Woods has been saying that previous swing changes with Butch Harmon and Hank Haney took some 18 months to register. He is pleased with the instant feedback he has received from Foley, although he stopped short of saying he would dive in and revamp his swing.
“I understand what he’s trying to teach, so that’s the biggest thing,” Woods said. “And then when you’re out on the golf course playing, it’s understanding how to fix it. that’s the hardest part.”
So is Foley his coach?
“He’s coaching me,” Woods said with a smile, showing that his two years at Stanford were enough to master semantics.
Someone asked he were paying Foley?
“That’s none of your business,” Woods said.
He smiled at that answer, too, recalling the same words—far more terse— that he used at the U.S. Open when a reporter asked if there had been any resolution to his marriage.
The divorce became official on Aug. 23, and Woods is trying to move on. How quickly he adjusts to his swing could depend whether he gets to play one more tournament before the Ryder Cup.
HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie
Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.
Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.
That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.
"We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.
There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.
Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.
Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best
There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.
Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.
"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."
Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.
"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."
When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.
"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."
Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014
As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.
Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.
Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.
Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.
With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.
Pavin's season nearly ends after slow-play penalty
Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow-play penalty.
Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.
The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.
Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.
Slow-play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.
"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"
The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin:
It’s absolutely ridiculous. It took us 4 hours and 15 minutes to play a 2-ball (behind pictured guy I’ll add). We were an hour longer than the first guys that teed off. It’s unacceptable. https://t.co/rrlF3xB7bl— Stephen Ames (@StephenAmesPGA) October 22, 2018